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Economics

Shanghai’s Lockdown Missteps Undermine Financial Hub Ambitions

Expats are ditching the city, jeopardizing efforts by local authorities to lure “high-end” foreign talent.

Empty roads during a lockdown due to Covid-19 in Shanghai on April 12.

Empty roads during a lockdown due to Covid-19 in Shanghai on April 12.

Photographer: Qilai Shen/Bloomberg

An eerie silence hangs over Shanghai’s financial district weeks into a draconian lockdown of the city. The streets of Lujiazui have been emptied of the 300,000 professionals who flood in on a typical day. Pockets of traders and bankers living in its high-rises keep business ticking while separated from their families.

Across Shanghai, millions are confined to their homes and workplaces as China holds fast to a “Covid-zero” strategy while much of the rest of the world learns to live with the virus. Social media posts about the scramble to find food, toddlers forced to quarantine separately from their parents, and clashes between anxious residents and the police have captivated audiences in China and abroad.